Best Ways to Learn Chinese

Review & Comparison, Last Update September 27, 2019
There are many ways to learn Chinese online. But the best way to learn Chinese online is through these platforms. On this list, you will find different resources/applications that will prove helpful for beginners, intermediate, and advanced learners. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2019
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Free Trial
Average Lesson Duration
Additional Tools
Offline Access
Additional Languages
Customer Support
 
PROS

The objective progress tracker tool will let you monitor your progress and verify your fluency/mastery of the language. The program offers quick quizzes and rehearsal self-tests. The company's app incorporates these fun little interactive games that are able to facilitate the learning process and provide some entertainment value to an otherwise tedious task. 

CONS

You have to be connected to the Internet to use the app. 

OUR VERDICT

Rocket Languages offers arguably the best online Chinese course. The company's app is massive. It is packing many different yet effective tools that will let you achieve fluency and master Mandarin. These lessons include valuable material for beginners and experienced students alike. 

detailed parameters
Free Trial

Available

Average Lesson Duration

25 minutes

Additional Tools

Objective progress tracker, interactive games, flashcards, survival kits, voice recognition tool

Offline Access

Limited

Additional Languages

11

Customer Support

24/7 forum and email support

PROS

The course is broken down into 20 units that touch on practical elements first and foremost. Within each unit, you will find individual bite-sized lessons that do an excellent job focusing on specific language mechanics like pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing. The lessons offer gradual progression and your knowledge is frequently re-tested. 

CONS

The mobile app doesn't include writing lessons. 

OUR VERDICT

With Rosetta Stone, you'll definitely be able to learn Mandarin. It is possible to become fluent in Chinese using the company's web platform/application alone (albeit difficult). The lessons are highly interactive, visual, and no more or less repetitive than they ought to be. 

detailed parameters
Free Trial

Available

Average Lesson Duration

30-40 minutes

Additional Tools

Flash cards, character recognition tests, pronunciation tests, audio lessons

Offline Access

Available through the mobile app

Additional Languages

28

Customer Support

FAQ, customer support portal, email

PROS

The courses heavily center around pronunciation. The company's method excels at isolating each sound and training your mouth as well as your ear, making you able to speak and hear Mandarin in a much more fluent manner. The native speakers in these courses hit the perfect balance between speaking too slow or too fast. 

CONS

No writing and very little reading. 

OUR VERDICT

Pimsleur presents an easy way to learn Chinese pronunciation, improve your Mandarin vocabulary, and build a solid grammar/sentence structure foundation. The company's program is far from the most comprehensive title. At the same time, the course is really good at what it does. 

detailed parameters
Free Trial

Available

Average Lesson Duration

30 minutes

Additional Tools

Flash cards, quick match, speed round, meet and greet, survival skills

Offline Access

Unavailable

Additional Languages

49

Customer Support

FAQ, social media presence, phone, email

PROS

Using slow playback, loop, and subtitles features in the video player, you'll have no issues dissecting what you hear to copy these sounds yourself. You can use built-in flash cards, captions, and games to learn new words in context while watching Chinese TV shows, movies, commercials, and more.

CONS

The platform doesn't enable you to develop speaking skills. 

OUR VERDICT

Yabla is an awesome resource for intermediate and advanced students to brush up on Mandarin. There are over 1550 videos on the company's website. There are many different categories to choose from. It will cost you less than 15 bucks per month to access these videos. 

detailed parameters
Free Trial

Free demo videos

Average Lesson Duration

Varies

Additional Tools

Flash cards, games, slow playback, loop, captions

Offline Access

Unavailable

Additional Languages

4

Customer Support

FAQ, email

PROS

With Intermediate Chinese Grammar, you'll explore 12 complex grammatical concepts that will help you improve your Chinese grammar, including syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The program covers more than 1500 words. You will receive standalone assignments and have to pass a midterm exam and a final exam.

CONS

The courses could use visual/interactive elements. 

OUR VERDICT

With edX Online Chinese Course, you'll be able to learn Mandarin Chinese in a structured, methodical, systematic manner. The platform hosts effective courses for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. The program emulates classroom experience as well as the next online course. 

detailed parameters
Free Trial

Available

Average Lesson Duration

40 minutes

Additional Tools

Lecture videos, standalone assignments, exams 

Offline Access

Unavailable

Additional Languages

Spanish

Customer Support

Help center, email, blog

Rocket Languages Online Chinese Course

33-Lesson Interactive Audio Course

Rocket Languages is the biggest name in the online language courses game. The company's program isn't flawless but it is probably the most comprehensive and extensive app there is. First and foremost, Rocket Languages prioritizes Mandarin Chinese. Considered the standard form of Chinese, Mandarin has to be your starting point whether you intend to study provincial variations or not.

Mandarin incorporates especially subtle intonations that can change the use and/or meaning of words. That's why the company's 33-lesson interactive audio course is so massive. Aside from learning the Chinese language's words and phrases, you'll be able to listen to how these words and phrases are pronounced.

Given that intonation, stress, and inflection are massively important components of this particular language, the people behind the program recommend listening to these audio lessons carefully and repeatedly in order to achieve fluency. Plus, you can download these 25-minute lessons and listen to them offline.

Review of Rocket Languages Online Chinese Course

Objective Progress Tracker and Interactive Games

Learning new languages can seem daunting. The feeling like you haven't progressed at all is always there creeping nearby. It's not that hard with Rocket Languages though. You'll be able to access an objective progress tracker tool that will let you monitor and verify your fluency/mastery of the language. The program offers quick quizzes and rehearsal self-tests. These tools are extremely helpful in terms of letting you know where you are in the learning curve. You're far less likely to become complacent with yourself at any stage of the training process. Plus, progress awareness will always result in higher confidence levels, something that is necessary to sound natural when speaking the language.

Starting to feel like the usual lessons are getting boring and repetitive? The company's app incorporates these fun little interactive games that are able to facilitate the learning process and provide some entertainment value to an otherwise tedious task. Furthermore, these vocabulary exercises include the common usage of different words and expressions. As you would imagine, these common usage examples will prove immensely helpful in your future day-to-day interactions.

Rocket Languages Online Chinese Course in the use

Choose Your Plan

We can't really cover Rocket Languages without talking about the company's pricing policy. There are 3 plans you can choose from: Level 1, Level 2, and, oddly enough, Level 3. All levels include 24/7 lifetime online access (via the company's app and desktop computer), 60-day, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee, free updates for life, and 24/7 forum and email support.

All levels include many hours of lesson time (124, 254, and 366 for levels 1, 2, and 3 respectively).

The first level offers 1891 phrases with voice recognition and 33 interactive audio lessons. The second and third levels bump these numbers up to 3731 / 66 and 6127 / 94.

Level 1 offers access to 29 language and culture lessons as well as 29 writing lessons. Levels 2 more than doubles these numbers, with 61 language and culture lessons and 58 writing lessons. Level 3 brings these numbers to 89 and 86 respectively.

In short, Rocket Languages offers arguably the best online Chinese course. The company's app is massive. It is packing many different yet effective tools that will let you achieve fluency and master Mandarin. These lessons include valuable material for beginners, intermediate, and experienced students alike.

Detailed review of Rocket Languages Online Chinese Course

 

Rosetta Stone Online Chinese Course

Breaking Things Down

Rosetta Stone is up there with Rocket Language sharing "the biggest name in the business" title. Everyone and their mother have heard about Rosetta Stone. Is it any good though? Well, as far as learning Chinese is concerned, the platform is pretty darn good. For our taste, the platform's biggest strength is its structure. The entire course is broken down into 20 units that touch on the most practical things/subjects you need to know about the language.

The units are: Language Basics, Greetings and Introductions, Work and School, Shopping, Travel, Past and Future, Friends and Social Life, Dining and Vacation, Home and Health, Life and World, Everyday Things, Places and Events, Tourism and Recreation, Professions and Hobbies, At Home and Around Town, Style and Personal Wellness, Business and Industry, Arts and Academics, Emergency Situations, Family and Community.

Within each unit, you will find individual bite-sized lessons that do an excellent job focusing on specific language mechanics like pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing. As far as we're concerned, these lessons are highly interactive, visual, and no more or less repetitive than they ought to be.

More often than not, each unit will have 4 core lessons, breaking down into detail from there. The core lesson will usually last around 20 minutes. After that, the unit goes into pronunciation (~5 minutes), grammar (~5 minutes), reading (~5 minutes), writing (~5 minutes), and vocabulary (~5 minutes). The lessons offer gradual progression based on the earlier foundation and your knowledge is frequently re-tested.

Review of Rosetta Stone Online Chinese Course

Learning Philosophy

Rosetta Stone is excellent at balancing different things to keep its courses effective but, at the same time, engaging enough. They don't dive deep into details or the usual unnecessary vocabulary vomit. It is all about the basics first and foremost: greetings, the right way to say boy, girl, man, woman, things like that. Before anything else, the platform teaches you the phrases/vocabulary that will always prove useful in your day-to-day interactions.

That being said, these courses are just as good at progressive and compound delivery. The things you learn always come back to bite you further into the course. The knowledge you gain from unit to unit will be reused. With languages in general and Chinese in particular, repetition is key, meaning this is where Rosetta Stone's approach will prove especially helpful/effective. You won't always be able to catch something on the first time but, when the courses hit you with that "something" for the 20th time, that knowledge is bound to stick.

Rosetta Stone Online Chinese Course in the use

Unique Features

The "engaging" part stems from the app's interactive features. Every lesson will have you looking at pictures, associating Chinese characters to sounds, selecting single/multiple options in multiple-choice questions, and/or speaking to your computer/smartphone/tablet. You receive instant feedback and, as far as we're concerned, this interactive approach beats reading a textbook.

Rosetta Stone has its unique features too. The platform makes it easy to find quality live tutoring. You can access the "Chat and Friends" where you're able to group up with other people and learn together and/or meet other students from all over the world.

The "Extended Knowledge" feature will let you access games, stories, and self-recordings.

Last but not least, the "Audio Companion" feature will let you forego the interactive lessons in favor of podcast-like audio sessions.

Bottom line, with Rosetta Stone, you'll definitely be able to learn Mandarin. It is possible to become fluent in Chinese using the company's web platform/application alone.

Detailed review of Rosetta Stone Online Chinese Course

 

Pimsleur Online Chinese Course

Pimsleur Language Programs

Pimsleur is unique. It won't necessarily let you learn Chinese online. The company's learning system isn't designed to do that. It is designed to make you capable of passable Chinese as fast as possible. It is an audio-based course that presents phrases in Mandarin first and then in your native language for you to translate into Chinese. As you would imagine, an approach like that has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.

Starting with the former, the program is surprisingly effective at teaching you Mandarin's core grammar and sentence structure. As far as Mandarin is concerned, sentence structure is extremely important. You have to follow the so-called “golden rule” of sentence order: the subject comes first, then when, where, how, and the action comes last.

In the early levels, you’ll be using sentences with this exact structure again and again 'til it starts to feel natural. Instead of explaining and/or explicitly telling you the right grammar, these courses simply give you the phrases and you start using the proper grammar without realizing it.

Review of Pimsleur Online Chinese Course

Perfect Your Accent

Another advantage that this method has to offer is how heavily it centers around pronunciation. Needless to say, pronunciation is important regardless of what language you're trying to learn. That said, with a tonal language like Mandarin, it is even more important. The company's program breaks down phrases and words into single syllables. Starting from the last syllable, the courses make you repeat each sound one by one 'til you build the entire word/phrase back up.

This method excels at isolating each sound and training your mouth as well as your ear, making you able to speak and hear Mandarin in a much more fluent manner. The program also never fails to point out Mandarin's rising and falling tones, which is important since these often change the word's meaning.

Last but not least, the native speakers in these courses hit the perfect balance between speaking too slow or too fast. These people are fast enough to make dialogues challenging and sound natural but, at the same time, slow enough to make sure beginner/intermediate students don’t feel overwhelmed.

Pimsleur Online Chinese Course in the use

Streamlined Software

The disadvantages are obvious. The writing component isn't there at all. The reading section is pretty much non-existent too. There’s a brief introduction to pinyin (romanized Chinese characters) in level 5. On that level, you'll also find each lesson's words and phrases written out in pinyin and traditional characters, so you should be able to follow along. At the same time, outside of level 5, there are no Mandarin reading texts or audio in the program. Sure, the materials on that level are helpful but, as you would imagine, not enough to build a solid reading/writing foundation.

On the bright side, the company's mobile app is fantastic. The interface is straightforward and streamlined. You can easily switch between languages. The flash cards and other additional learning tools are easily accessible too.

All in all, Pimsleur presents an easy way to learn Chinese pronunciation, improve your Mandarin vocabulary, and build a solid grammar/sentence structure foundation. The company's program is far from the most comprehensive title. At the same time, the course is really good at what it does.

Detailed review of Pimsleur Online Chinese Course

 

Yabla Online Chinese Course

Video Content Approach

Yabla is another platform with its own unique approach. Just like Pimsleur, it is not that comprehensive. In a nutshell, Yabla is a language immersion tool that lets you pick up a language exclusively through video content. As far as we're concerned, this is an excellent platform for intermediate and advanced students looking to take their Mandarin to the next level.

At the same time, it is pretty bad for beginners. The platform/app hosts videos for beginners too. But there's very little structure to the course and you likely won't be able to understand the content without basic grammar/comprehension skills.

Again, what we're dealing here is far from a complete language-learning solution. It is an effective tool though.

First and foremost, Yabla is excellent for learning Chinese tones. Generally speaking, the best way to master Mandarin tones is to mimic/shadow native speakers. That is where the platform's surprisingly rich functionality comes in. Using slow playback, loop, and subtitles features in the video player, you'll have no issues dissecting what you hear to copy these sounds yourself.

Review of Yabla Online Chinese Course

Memorize Chinese Characters

Yabla is also great at helping students memorize Chinese characters. First things first, you'll be able to watch videos with traditional subtitles on. You'll also be able to add the ones you don’t know/recognize to your flashcard deck to review later. But where Yabla truly shines is letting you associate characters with the context you found these characters in. One way to do that is to create flashcards in Anki and add a screenshot of the scene where you first saw the word.

Just pick any scene from any clip that best reminds you of that word. This way, when you see the script and the image together, you should be able to recall the conversation that the word was used in. This neat little trick will help you retain and remember the characters you learn. As you would imagine, the more connections your brain is able to associate to the character(s), the more likely you are to remember these characters.

Yabla Online Chinese Course in the use

Immerse Yourself in Chinese Culture

The best thing about Yabla is how it is able to immerse you in the language. When you watch/interact with native Chinese footage, your brain is basically forced to activate every bit of Mandarin you know. Of course, you can always learn new words and/or grammar rules but it is another thing to see these words/phrases in action. Plus, the immersion goes beyond your language skills. Since these videos are shot in China, you get some feel for the culture as well. Needless to say, it is no replacement for a plane ticket but not a bad way to be exposed to the country too.

As for the program's downsides, it will not enable you to develop speaking skills. At all. There's practically no structure to the "courses" too.

Nevertheless, Yabla is an awesome resource for intermediate and advanced students to brush up on Mandarin. There are over 1550 videos on the company's website. There are many different categories to choose from. It will cost you less than 15 bucks per month to access these videos.

Detailed review of Yabla Online Chinese Course

 

edX Online Chinese Course

Start with the Basics

edX takes a more academic approach. The company's program doesn't meander around nor does it heavily focus on specific Mandarin parts while abandoning/glossing over others. The courses are structured and methodical. There are effective and efficient programs for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students.

Let's start with Mandarin Chinese Level 1. As you would imagine, this is a course for beginners. First and foremost, this course will teach you basic spoken Mandarin phrases and vocabulary for your everyday interactions. The program emphasizes just how important proper tones in Mandarin are and how to use/understand these difference in tone. The course includes the most essential and practical communication skills. It doesn't bombard you with unnecessary information.

At the same time, you'll be able to develop your Chinese language skills in a business environment. The program will help you build confidence to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, and friends in Chinese.

Review of edX Online Chinese Course

Complex Sentence Structures

Mandarin Chinese Level 2 is not that different from level 1. Naturally, it builds upon level 1's foundation and further helps you develop basic skills. The course features practical communication techniques and your basic Mandarin phrases/vocabulary necessary for everyday interactions in a Chinese-speaking country. Level 2 picks up where Level 1 leaves off, teaching you rudimentary grammar /sentence patterns. At the same time, the program is considerably more complex, including, among other things, vocabulary differences between China and Taiwan

With Mandarin Chinese Level 3, you will be able to advance your Chinese skills with an extensive vocabulary and complex sentence structures revolving around dynamic business scenarios. You will learn how to properly address yourself. You won't just be able to respond in a correct manner. You'll also be able to deliver your point across and convey just about any idea in concise fashion. The course will provide greater insight into Chinese culture. You'll learn spoken Mandarin phrases and vocabulary for complex scenarios. The course includes intermediate-level Chinese grammar and sentence patterns.

edX Online Chinese Course in the use

Exams Too

The last course we would like to cover is Intermediate Chinese Grammar. With this course, you'll explore 12 complex grammatical concepts that will help you improve your Chinese grammar, including syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The course includes various exercises that do an excellent job improving your reading, speaking, writing, and translating skills. The program covers more than 1500 words, meaning this is a program for people looking to become fluent in Chinese and use it as 2nd language.

The course offers lecture videos approx. 10 minutes in length. You will receive standalone assignments and have to pass a midterm exam and a final exam.

The platform offers other courses too, including but not limited to Mandarin Chinese for Business and Mandarin Chinese Essentials.

Long story short, with edX Online Chinese Course, you'll be able to learn Mandarin Chinese in a structured, methodical, systematic manner. The platform hosts effective courses for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. The program emulates classroom experience as well as the next online course. 

Detailed review of edX Online Chinese Course

 

What Are the Best Ways to Learn Chinese?

Native English speakers usually struggle with Sino-Tibetan (Asian) languages. Mandarin Chinese is a particularly difficult foe. The language is complicated on many levels and for many reasons. At the same time, it is the most spoken language in the world (counting native speakers alone) and the second most spoken language in the world behind English when you count the total number of speakers. It makes sense why so many people are looking to pick up Chinese for various reasons but especially business/networking.

That's where these online platforms come in. Using these resources/applications, you will be able to learn Chinese remotely. Many would argue that these resources offer the best way to learn Chinese for busy people who don't have the time to attend regular classes.

All these platforms on this list are excellent in their own right. They're pretty different though. These sites/apps incorporate very different methods and various additional tools to create the most effective and engaging courses. From video and audio content to interactive games and your average structured, methodical, systematic approach, there's a course for everyone here.

The third most popular language in the world is Spanish, just one of the many reasons to consider these Spanish courses. Japanese isn't as popular but the country is absolutely remarkable and the language is brilliant, so we would recommend these Japanese courses too.

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Publish Date: 2019-09-02 12:01:10